Senate passes bill aimed at lowering individual health insurance costs

The Senate voted 15-2 Friday to pass a bill to lower health insurance premium increases for individuals and families.

Lori Wing-Heier
Lori Wing-Heier, the director of the Alaska Division of Insurance, in January. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

State Insurance Division director Lori Wing-Heier told lawmakers last week that the individual insurance market could collapse if the legislature didn’t pass House Bill 374.

Bill supporter Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, noted that insurance bills now exceed many families’ mortgage payments.

“Through this legislation, we’re addressing a crisis,” she said, adding: “Essentially, we’re up against a wall.”

The bill provides $55 million to fund a reinsurance program. This will offset the cost of Alaskans with the highest healthcare costs.

Premera Alaska will be the only insurer on the individual market after Moda Health said it would stop offering individual plans by the end of the year.

Wing-Heier says there are many reasons why Alaska has high healthcare costs.

“There’s a lot of duplication in equipment in Alaska. And there’s also no mechanism to control fees in the private industry and physicians,” she said. “Those are things that we need to work on.”

The House could vote on the bill as soon as Saturday to send the bill to Gov. Bill Walker’s desk.

Andrew Kitchenman

State Government Reporter, Alaska Public Media & KTOO

State government plays an outsized role in the life of Alaskans. As the state continues to go through the painful process of deciding what its priorities are, I bring Alaskans to the scene of a government in transition.

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